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PROPORTIONAL VALVES - BASIC PRINCIPLES

Steve Skinner, Eaton Hydraulics, Havant, UK


Copyright

Eaton Hydraulics 2000

BASIC SYSTEM
1)
Consider a simple hydraulic
1)
Consider a simple hydraulic
system consisting of a reservoir
system consisting of a reservoir
(A), electric drive motor (B), pump
(A), electric drive motor (B), pump
(C), relief valve (D), filter (E), flow
(C), relief valve (D), filter (E), flow
control valve (F), directional control
control valve (F), directional control
valve (G) and cylinder (H).
valve (G) and cylinder (H).

HH
2) Movement of the cylinder is
2) Movement of the cylinder is
controlled by the flow control
controlled by the flow control
valve (which determines the
valve (which determines the
speed of movement) and the
speed of movement) and the
directional control valve (which
directional control valve (which
determines which way the
determines which way the
cylinder moves).
cylinder moves).

GG
FF

BB

CC

EE
DD

AA

BASIC SYSTEM
When the solenoid valve is
When the solenoid valve is
energised, the cylinder piston will
energised, the cylinder piston will
extend or retract at a speed
extend or retract at a speed
determined by the flow control
determined by the flow control
valve. The solenoid valve itself
valve. The solenoid valve itself
therefore has no control over the
therefore has no control over the
cylinder speed.
cylinder speed.

BASIC SYSTEM
A three position solenoid valve can:
A three position solenoid valve can:
- extend the cylinder
- extend the cylinder

BASIC SYSTEM
A three position solenoid valve can:
A three position solenoid valve can:
- extend the cylinder
- extend the cylinder
- retract the cylinder
- retract the cylinder

BASIC SYSTEM
A three position solenoid valve can:
A three position solenoid valve can:
- extend the cylinder
- extend the cylinder
- retract the cylinder
- retract the cylinder
- stop the cylinder
- stop the cylinder

The solenoid valve is therefore acting


The solenoid valve is therefore acting
much like a switch in an electrical
much like a switch in an electrical
circuit.
circuit.
In one position the light is switched
In one position the light is switched
off...
off...

... and in the other position it is


... and in the other position it is
switched on but there are no
switched on but there are no
intermediate states.
intermediate states.

However, another type of switch can


However, another type of switch can
be used for controlling a light bulb
be used for controlling a light bulb
known as a dimmer switch.
known as a dimmer switch.

In this case, the switch can be turned


In this case, the switch can be turned
to any position between fully off and
to any position between fully off and
fully on to vary the brightness of the
fully on to vary the brightness of the
bulb.
bulb.

In this case, the switch can be turned


In this case, the switch can be turned
to any position between fully off and
to any position between fully off and
fully on to vary the brightness of the
fully on to vary the brightness of the
bulb.
bulb.

In this case, the switch can be turned


In this case, the switch can be turned
to any position between fully off and
to any position between fully off and
fully on to vary the brightness of the
fully on to vary the brightness of the
bulb.
bulb.

In this case, the switch can be turned


In this case, the switch can be turned
to any position between fully off and
to any position between fully off and
fully on to vary the brightness of the
fully on to vary the brightness of the
bulb.
bulb.

In this case, the switch can be turned


In this case, the switch can be turned
to any position between fully off and
to any position between fully off and
fully on to vary the brightness of the
fully on to vary the brightness of the
bulb.
bulb.

In this case, the switch can be turned


In this case, the switch can be turned
to any position between fully off and
to any position between fully off and
fully on to vary the brightness of the
fully on to vary the brightness of the
bulb.
bulb.

In this case, the switch can be turned


In this case, the switch can be turned
to any position between fully off and
to any position between fully off and
fully on to vary the brightness of the
fully on to vary the brightness of the
bulb.
bulb.

In this case, the switch can be turned


In this case, the switch can be turned
to any position between fully off and
to any position between fully off and
fully on to vary the brightness of the
fully on to vary the brightness of the
bulb.
bulb.

BASIC SYSTEM
1)
A proportional directional
1)
A proportional directional
valve can be thought of as the
valve can be thought of as the
dimmer switch equivalent of an
dimmer switch equivalent of an
electrical switch.
electrical switch.

2) The valve spool can now


2) The valve spool can now
be moved not just to one of
be moved not just to one of
three discrete positions but
three discrete positions but
anywhere in between.
anywhere in between.
The direction of the spool
The direction of the spool
movement away from the
movement away from the
central
position
still
central
position
still
determines which way the
determines which way the
cylinder moves but the
cylinder moves but the
amount of spool movement
amount of spool movement
also controls the speed of
also controls the speed of
the piston.
the piston.

BASIC SYSTEM
So in effect the proportional
So in effect the proportional
directional valve is acting as both a
directional valve is acting as both a
directional valve and a flow control
directional valve and a flow control
valve.
valve.

SWITCHING SOLENOID VALVE


A conventional solenoid valve can be
A conventional solenoid valve can be
thought of as a simple switching valve.
thought of as a simple switching valve.
It is controlled by some form of
It is controlled by some form of
electrical device which simply switches
electrical device which simply switches
the electrical current on or off.
the electrical current on or off.

SWITCHING SOLENOID VALVE


A conventional solenoid valve can be
A conventional solenoid valve can be
thought of as a simple switching valve.
thought of as a simple switching valve.
It is controlled by some form of
It is controlled by some form of
electrical device which simply switches
electrical device which simply switches
the electrical current on or off.
the electrical current on or off.

SWITCHING SOLENOID VALVE


A conventional solenoid valve can be
A conventional solenoid valve can be
thought of as a simple switching valve.
thought of as a simple switching valve.
It is controlled by some form of
It is controlled by some form of
electrical device which simply switches
electrical device which simply switches
the electrical current on or off.
the electrical current on or off.

PROPORTIONAL VALVE

A proportional directional valve


A proportional directional valve
however will be controlled by an
however will be controlled by an
electrical device more like a dimmer
electrical device more like a dimmer
switch.
switch.

PROPORTIONAL VALVE
By varying the current to either
By varying the current to either
solenoid, the amount of spool
solenoid, the amount of spool
movement can be varied and hence the
movement can be varied and hence the
amount of flow through the valve can
amount of flow through the valve can
be controlled.
be controlled.

PROPORTIONAL VALVE
By varying the current to either
By varying the current to either
solenoid, the amount of spool
solenoid, the amount of spool
movement can be varied and hence the
movement can be varied and hence the
amount of flow through the valve can
amount of flow through the valve can
be controlled.
be controlled.

PROPORTIONAL VALVE
By varying the current to either
By varying the current to either
solenoid, the amount of spool
solenoid, the amount of spool
movement can be varied and hence the
movement can be varied and hence the
amount of flow through the valve can
amount of flow through the valve can
be controlled.
be controlled.

PROPORTIONAL VALVE
By varying the current to either
By varying the current to either
solenoid, the amount of spool
solenoid, the amount of spool
movement can be varied and hence the
movement can be varied and hence the
amount of flow through the valve can
amount of flow through the valve can
be controlled.
be controlled.

PROPORTIONAL VALVE
By varying the current to either
By varying the current to either
solenoid, the amount of spool
solenoid, the amount of spool
movement can be varied and hence the
movement can be varied and hence the
amount of flow through the valve can
amount of flow through the valve can
be controlled.
be controlled.

PROPORTIONAL VALVE
By varying the current to either
By varying the current to either
solenoid, the amount of spool
solenoid, the amount of spool
movement can be varied and hence the
movement can be varied and hence the
amount of flow through the valve can
amount of flow through the valve can
be controlled.
be controlled.

PROPORTIONAL SOLENOID

BB
AA
FF
CC

GG

DD

EE

So unlike a conventional
So unlike a conventional
solenoid valve, the electrical
solenoid valve, the electrical
current flowing through the
current flowing through the
coil of a proportional valve
coil of a proportional valve
needs to be regulated not
needs to be regulated not
just switched on or off.
just switched on or off.
The
construction
of
a
The
construction
of
a
proportional
solenoid
is
proportional
solenoid
is
however similar to that of an
however similar to that of an
on/off solenoid.
on/off solenoid.
The solenoid consists of:
The solenoid consists of:
- a coil (A)
- a coil (A)
- a frame (B)
- a frame (B)
- an armature (C)
- an armature (C)
- a pole piece (D)
- a pole piece (D)
- a push-pin (E)
- a push-pin (E)
The armature is enclosed in a
The armature is enclosed in a
core tube (F) and the whole
core tube (F) and the whole
assembly is often fully
assembly is often fully
encapsulated in a plastic resin
encapsulated in a plastic resin
material (G).
material (G).

PROPORTIONAL SOLENOID
When a voltage is applied to the
When a voltage is applied to the
coil connections, an electrical
coil connections, an electrical
current will flow through the
current will flow through the
coil.
coil.

PROPORTIONAL SOLENOID

1) In turn, the electrical current


1) In turn, the electrical current
creates a magnetic field which is
creates a magnetic field which is
concentrated in the metal frame,
concentrated in the metal frame,
pole piece and armature.
pole piece and armature.

2) There is however a gap in the


2) There is however a gap in the
magnetic circuit between the
magnetic circuit between the
pole piece and armature so a
pole piece and armature so a
force is created which acts to
force is created which acts to
close this gap and complete the
close this gap and complete the
magnetic circuit.
magnetic circuit.

PROPORTIONAL SOLENOID

1) The push-pin connects the


1) The push-pin connects the
solenoid to the valve spool and
solenoid to the valve spool and
normally moves the spool against
normally moves the spool against
a spring.
a spring.

2) The force created by the


2) The force created by the
solenoid is determined by the
solenoid is determined by the
strength of the magnetic field
strength of the magnetic field
which itself is proportional to
which itself is proportional to
the current flowing through the
the current flowing through the
coil.
coil.

PROPORTIONAL SOLENOID

Increasing the coil current will


Increasing the coil current will
increase the solenoid force and
increase the solenoid force and
hence move the spool a greater
hence move the spool a greater
amount against the spring.
amount against the spring.

PROPORTIONAL SOLENOID

Increasing the coil current will


Increasing the coil current will
increase the solenoid force and
increase the solenoid force and
hence move the spool a greater
hence move the spool a greater
amount against the spring.
amount against the spring.

PROPORTIONAL SOLENOID

Increasing the coil current will


Increasing the coil current will
increase the solenoid force and
increase the solenoid force and
hence move the spool a greater
hence move the spool a greater
amount against the spring.
amount against the spring.

PROPORTIONAL SOLENOID

I
F
The solenoid is designed so that
The solenoid is designed so that
the relationship between the
the relationship between the
solenoid force (F) and the coil
solenoid force (F) and the coil
current (I) is a linear one. This
current (I) is a linear one. This
means that the solenoid force
means that the solenoid force
depends only on the coil current.
depends only on the coil current.

SWITCHING SOLENOID SPOOL

A further difference between a


A further difference between a
switching solenoid valve and a
switching solenoid valve and a
proportional valve is in the design
proportional valve is in the design
of the spool.
of the spool.

SWITCHING SOLENOID SPOOL


1) With a switching valve, the
1) With a switching valve, the
spool is designed to achieve
spool is designed to achieve
minimum pressure drop when the
minimum pressure drop when the
valve is energised.
valve is energised.

2) Which would mean that to


2) Which would mean that to
control low flow rates, the
control low flow rates, the
amount of spool opening required
amount of spool opening required
would be very small and difficult
would be very small and difficult
to control.
to control.

PROPORTIONAL SPOOL

1) A proportional valve spool


1) A proportional valve spool
therefore has wider lands with
therefore has wider lands with
notches cut into the edges.
notches cut into the edges.

PROPORTIONAL SPOOL

1) A proportional valve spool


1) A proportional valve spool
therefore has wider lands with
therefore has wider lands with
notches cut into the edges.
notches cut into the edges.

2) So although the maximum flow through


2) So although the maximum flow through
the valve may be reduced (compared to a
the valve may be reduced (compared to a
switching valve) low flows in particular are
switching valve) low flows in particular are
more easily controlled and the opening of
more easily controlled and the opening of
the valve is more gradual.
the valve is more gradual.

PROPORTIONAL SPOOL

Depending upon the maximum flow to


Depending upon the maximum flow to
be controlled, different spools can be
be controlled, different spools can be
fitted to a particular valve which have
fitted to a particular valve which have
different shape, size or number of
different shape, size or number of
spool notches.
spool notches.

DIRECT ACTING PROPORTIONAL RELIEF VALVE


1) Proportional valves can also be used to control pressure. In this
1) Proportional valves can also be used to control pressure. In this
case a proportional solenoid is used to push a poppet against a seat via
case a proportional solenoid is used to push a poppet against a seat via
a spring. The greater the solenoid force the greater the pressure
a spring. The greater the solenoid force the greater the pressure
required to push the poppet off its seat and open the valve.
required to push the poppet off its seat and open the valve.

DIRECT ACTING PROPORTIONAL RELIEF VALVE


1) Proportional valves can also be used to control pressure. In this
1) Proportional valves can also be used to control pressure. In this
case a proportional solenoid is used to push a poppet against a seat via
case a proportional solenoid is used to push a poppet against a seat via
a spring. The greater the solenoid force the greater the pressure
a spring. The greater the solenoid force the greater the pressure
required to push the poppet off its seat and open the valve.
required to push the poppet off its seat and open the valve.

2) This provides a direct acting


2) This provides a direct acting
relief valve function but like most
relief valve function but like most
such valves, it is only possible to
such valves, it is only possible to
pass small flow rates through the
pass small flow rates through the
valve.
valve.

TWO-STAGE PROPORTIONAL RELIEF VALVE

To control higher
To control higher
flow
rates,
the
flow
rates,
the
proportional
direct
proportional
direct
acting relief valve
acting relief valve
can be used as the
can be used as the
pilot stage of a twopilot stage of a twostage
relief
(or
stage
relief
(or
reducing valve).
reducing valve).

TWO-STAGE PROPORTIONAL RELIEF VALVE

To control higher
To control higher
flow
rates,
the
flow
rates,
the
proportional
direct
proportional
direct
acting relief valve
acting relief valve
can be used as the
can be used as the
pilot stage of a twopilot stage of a twostage
relief
(or
stage
relief
(or
reducing valve).
reducing valve).

BENEFITS OF PROPORTIONAL SYSTEMS

REMOTE CONTROL - CONVENTIONAL SYSTEM

In order to adjust the speed of


In order to adjust the speed of
an actuator in a conventional
an actuator in a conventional
system, the flow control valve has
system, the flow control valve has
to be mounted in a convenient or
to be mounted in a convenient or
accessible position. This may
accessible position. This may
often mean running high pressure
often mean running high pressure
hydraulic pipes to and from an
hydraulic pipes to and from an
operators desk.
operators desk.

REMOTE CONTROL - PROPORTIONAL SYSTEM

With a proportional system however,


With a proportional system however,
where control valve adjustment is
where control valve adjustment is
electronic, only low-power electrical
electronic, only low-power electrical
cables need to be connected
cables need to be connected
between the operators desk and the
between the operators desk and the
valve.
valve.

PLC REMOTE CONTROL - PROPORTIONAL SYSTEM

More commonly these days, machine


More commonly these days, machine
control is carried out by a digital
control is carried out by a digital
electronic controller. Here again, the
electronic controller. Here again, the
ability to control proportional valves
ability to control proportional valves
electronically provides a simple
electronically provides a simple
interface between the hydraulic
interface between the hydraulic
system and the electronic controller.
system and the electronic controller.

PROPORTIONAL PRESSURE CONTROL

The use of proportional


The use of proportional
directional and pressure
directional and pressure
control valves means
control valves means
that
all
hydraulic
that
all
hydraulic
functions of a machine
functions of a machine
(movement and force)
(movement and force)
can
be
controlled
can
be
controlled
electronically.
electronically.

SOLENOID VALVE RESPONSE TIME

A further benefit of proportional


A further benefit of proportional
valves is the ability to electronically
valves is the ability to electronically
control the speed of operation of
control the speed of operation of
the valve.
the valve.

SOLENOID VALVE RESPONSE TIME

0.015

Depending upon its size and voltage


Depending upon its size and voltage
supply, a conventional switching solenoid
supply, a conventional switching solenoid
valve will have an energisation response
valve will have an energisation response
time of approximately 15 milli-seconds.
time of approximately 15 milli-seconds.

SOLENOID VALVE RESPONSE TIME

0.040

The de-energisation response time will


The de-energisation response time will
be only slightly slower (typically around
be only slightly slower (typically around
25 ms) since the return spring produces
25 ms) since the return spring produces
less force than the solenoid .
less force than the solenoid .

PROPORTIONAL VALVE RESPONSE TIME

The speed of movement


The speed of movement
of a proportional valve
of a proportional valve
spool however can be
spool however can be
determined
by
the
determined
by
the
electronic signal fed to
electronic signal fed to
the valve solenoid. By
the valve solenoid. By
gradually increasing or
gradually increasing or
decreasing
the
the
decreasing
the
the
signal
(known
as
signal
(known
as
ramping), it is possible
ramping), it is possible
to achieve energisation
to achieve energisation
and
de-energisation
and
de-energisation
response
times
of
response
times
of
several seconds.
several seconds.

PROPORTIONAL VALVE RESPONSE TIME

1.000

The speed of movement


The speed of movement
of a proportional valve
of a proportional valve
spool however can be
spool however can be
determined
by
the
determined
by
the
electronic signal fed to
electronic signal fed to
the valve solenoid. By
the valve solenoid. By
gradually increasing or
gradually increasing or
decreasing
the
the
decreasing
the
the
signal
(known
as
signal
(known
as
ramping), it is possible
ramping), it is possible
to achieve energisation
to achieve energisation
and
de-energisation
and
de-energisation
response
times
of
response
times
of
several seconds.
several seconds.

PROPORTIONAL VALVE RESPONSE TIME

2.000

The speed of movement


The speed of movement
of a proportional valve
of a proportional valve
spool however can be
spool however can be
determined
by
the
determined
by
the
electronic signal fed to
electronic signal fed to
the valve solenoid. By
the valve solenoid. By
gradually increasing or
gradually increasing or
decreasing
the
the
decreasing
the
the
signal
(known
as
signal
(known
as
ramping), it is possible
ramping), it is possible
to achieve energisation
to achieve energisation
and
de-energisation
and
de-energisation
response
times
of
response
times
of
several seconds.
several seconds.

PROPORTIONAL VALVE RESPONSE TIME

3.000

The speed of movement


The speed of movement
of a proportional valve
of a proportional valve
spool however can be
spool however can be
determined
by
the
determined
by
the
electronic signal fed to
electronic signal fed to
the valve solenoid. By
the valve solenoid. By
gradually increasing or
gradually increasing or
decreasing
the
the
decreasing
the
the
signal
(known
as
signal
(known
as
ramping), it is possible
ramping), it is possible
to achieve energisation
to achieve energisation
and
de-energisation
and
de-energisation
response
times
of
response
times
of
several seconds.
several seconds.

LIFT EXAMPLE - CONVENTIONAL SYSTEM


The reason why it is useful to be able to control the speed of spool movement
The reason why it is useful to be able to control the speed of spool movement
of a valve is to reduce shock in a system. This is achieved by controlling the
of a valve is to reduce shock in a system. This is achieved by controlling the
acceleration and deceleration of the actuator. Suppose, for example, that the
acceleration and deceleration of the actuator. Suppose, for example, that the
simple hydraulic system described earlier is used to operate a passenger lift in
simple hydraulic system described earlier is used to operate a passenger lift in
a hotel.
a hotel.

LIFT EXAMPLE - CONVENTIONAL SYSTEM


When the solenoid valve is energised to lower the lift, the valve spool will move
When the solenoid valve is energised to lower the lift, the valve spool will move
across very rapidly. This means that the cylinder will accelerate very quickly
across very rapidly. This means that the cylinder will accelerate very quickly
up to its maximum speed (determined by the setting of flow control valve F).
up to its maximum speed (determined by the setting of flow control valve F).
This sudden starting of the lift provides a very uncomfortable ride for its
This sudden starting of the lift provides a very uncomfortable ride for its
occupants.
occupants.

FF

LIFT EXAMPLE - CONVENTIONAL SYSTEM


Similarly, when the lift reaches its destination, the solenoid valve will shut off
Similarly, when the lift reaches its destination, the solenoid valve will shut off
very rapidly causing a sudden stopping of the lift and again a very
very rapidly causing a sudden stopping of the lift and again a very
uncomfortable situation for the occupants. In real hydraulic systems, the
uncomfortable situation for the occupants. In real hydraulic systems, the
shocks generated by sudden starting and stopping of actuators create high
shocks generated by sudden starting and stopping of actuators create high
peak pressures which are one of the principle causes of fluid leakage.
peak pressures which are one of the principle causes of fluid leakage.

LIFT EXAMPLE - PROPORTIONAL SYSTEM


If the solenoid valve and flow control valve are replaced with a proportional
If the solenoid valve and flow control valve are replaced with a proportional
valve then not only can the speed of the lift be adjusted electronically, but
valve then not only can the speed of the lift be adjusted electronically, but
also its stopping and starting can be controlled.
also its stopping and starting can be controlled.

LIFT EXAMPLE - PROPORTIONAL SYSTEM

The proportional valve can be opened sufficiently slowly to provide a smooth


The proportional valve can be opened sufficiently slowly to provide a smooth
acceleration of the lift up to its maximum speed.
acceleration of the lift up to its maximum speed.

LIFT EXAMPLE - PROPORTIONAL SYSTEM


And likewise the deceleration can be controlled by slowing down the speed of
And likewise the deceleration can be controlled by slowing down the speed of
spool movement back to the centre condition.
spool movement back to the centre condition.

MOTION CONTROL

Distance

In general therefore, proportional valves are capable of providing


In general therefore, proportional valves are capable of providing
full motion control in terms of:
full motion control in terms of:

time

MOTION CONTROL

Distance

1. A smooth and controlled acceleration of an actuator up to its


1. A smooth and controlled acceleration of an actuator up to its
maximum speed.
maximum speed.

Acceleration
time

MOTION CONTROL

Distance

2. Control of the actuator velocity and if necessary maintaining it


2. Control of the actuator velocity and if necessary maintaining it
constant with varying loads.
constant with varying loads.

Velocity
Acceleration
time

MOTION CONTROL
3. A smooth deceleration with minimal pressure peaks.
3. A smooth deceleration with minimal pressure peaks.

Distance

Deceleration
Velocity
Acceleration
time

FORCE CONTROL
Proportional valves can
Proportional valves can
also be used to control
also be used to control
the force output from an
the force output from an
actuator (for example in
actuator (for example in
press or plastic injection
press or plastic injection
moulding applications) by
moulding applications) by
controlling the pressure
controlling the pressure
applied to the actuator.
applied to the actuator.

Force

time

FORCE CONTROL
In such cases it is often
In such cases it is often
necessary to control not
necessary to control not
only
the
maximum
only
the
maximum
actuator pressure but
actuator pressure but
also the rate at which
also the rate at which
the pressure is applied
the pressure is applied
or removed.
or removed.

Force

time

FORCE CONTROL
In fact the machine
In fact the machine
cycle may consist of a
cycle may consist of a
series of ramps and
series of ramps and
holding periods all of
holding periods all of
which can be achieved
which can be achieved
with
just
the
one
with
just
the
one
proportional valve.
proportional valve.

Force

time

FORCE CONTROL
At the end of the
At the end of the
machine cycle the rate
machine cycle the rate
at which the pressure is
at which the pressure is
reduced is also critical in
reduced is also critical in
many processes.
many processes.

Force

time

FORCE CONTROL
Motion and force control
Motion and force control
can thus be achieved
can thus be achieved
using proportional valves,
using proportional valves,
and in some cases the
and in some cases the
same valve can be used
same valve can be used
for both motion and
for both motion and
force control. This is
force control. This is
usually referred to as
usually referred to as
PQ control ie. the
PQ control ie. the
control of both pressure
control of both pressure
(P) and flow (Q).
(P) and flow (Q).
Furthermore,
all
of
Furthermore,
all
of
these control functions
these control functions
can be achieved using
can be achieved using
electronic inputs to the
electronic inputs to the
valve thus providing a
valve thus providing a
simple interface to the
simple interface to the
machine controller.
machine controller.

ELECTRONIC CONTROL

VALVE INPUT SIGNAL


As described earlier, the electrical current to the solenoid of a
As described earlier, the electrical current to the solenoid of a
proportional valve needs to be regulated and not just simply
proportional valve needs to be regulated and not just simply
switched on or off as is the case with a conventional valve.
switched on or off as is the case with a conventional valve.

VALVE INPUT SIGNAL


In theory, this could be achieved by using a dimmer switch type
In theory, this could be achieved by using a dimmer switch type
component (ie. a variable resistor). Practical problems such as
component (ie. a variable resistor). Practical problems such as
heat generation and drift however mean that such a device
heat generation and drift however mean that such a device
would not normally be used except for the very simplest
would not normally be used except for the very simplest
applications.
applications.

PROPORTIONAL VALVE AMPLIFIER


Normally, the current flowing through the proportional solenoid
Normally, the current flowing through the proportional solenoid
will be controlled by some form of electronic amplifier. The
will be controlled by some form of electronic amplifier. The
amplifier itself will require a power supply (usually 12 or 24
amplifier itself will require a power supply (usually 12 or 24
VDC) and a command input signal.
VDC) and a command input signal.

24 V DC

PROPORTIONAL VALVE AMPLIFIER


The output of the amplifier (electrical current) is controlled by
The output of the amplifier (electrical current) is controlled by
the input signal so with zero input the output current is also
the input signal so with zero input the output current is also
zero.
zero.

24 V DC

PROPORTIONAL VALVE AMPLIFIER


Increasing the input signal to the amplifier results in a
Increasing the input signal to the amplifier results in a
corresponding increase in output current to the valve solenoid.
corresponding increase in output current to the valve solenoid.

24 V DC

PROPORTIONAL VALVE AMPLIFIER


Increasing the input signal to the amplifier results in a
Increasing the input signal to the amplifier results in a
corresponding increase in output current to the valve solenoid.
corresponding increase in output current to the valve solenoid.

24 V DC

PROPORTIONAL VALVE AMPLIFIER


Increasing the input signal to the amplifier results in a
Increasing the input signal to the amplifier results in a
corresponding increase in output current to the valve solenoid.
corresponding increase in output current to the valve solenoid.

24 V DC

PROPORTIONAL VALVE AMPLIFIER


The relatively large current required to drive the valve solenoid
The relatively large current required to drive the valve solenoid
(typically 2 to 3 amps) is provided by the power supply so the
(typically 2 to 3 amps) is provided by the power supply so the
current required from the input signal device is very small
current required from the input signal device is very small
(normally just a few milli-amps). The input control device can
(normally just a few milli-amps). The input control device can
therefore be a simple potentiometer.
therefore be a simple potentiometer.

24 V DC

PROPORTIONAL VALVE AMPLIFIER


In mobile applications the input device could by a joystick type
In mobile applications the input device could by a joystick type
potentiometer.
potentiometer.

24 V DC

PROPORTIONAL VALVE AMPLIFIER


In an increasing number of applications however, the input signal
In an increasing number of applications however, the input signal
is generated by the machine controller itself (eg. a PLC is generated by the machine controller itself (eg. a PLC Programmable Logic Controller). This can then be fed directly to
Programmable Logic Controller). This can then be fed directly to
the valve amplifier to generate the appropriate output.
the valve amplifier to generate the appropriate output.

24 V DC

VALVE TYPES

NON-FEEDBACK VALVE
Different types of proportional valves with differing levels of
Different types of proportional valves with differing levels of
performance are available to meet the requirements of a wide
performance are available to meet the requirements of a wide
range of applications. The simplest type of proportional
range of applications. The simplest type of proportional
directional valve balances the solenoid force against a spring
directional valve balances the solenoid force against a spring
compression force in order to position the spool within the
compression force in order to position the spool within the
valve body.
valve body.

NON-FEEDBACK VALVE
An input signal to the amplifier produces a corresponding
An input signal to the amplifier produces a corresponding
output current to the valve solenoid. This current creates a
output current to the valve solenoid. This current creates a
force on the valve spool thus moving it across until the
force on the valve spool thus moving it across until the
compression of the spring balances the solenoid force.
compression of the spring balances the solenoid force.
A small input signal thus creates a small opening of the valve.
A small input signal thus creates a small opening of the valve.

NON-FEEDBACK VALVE
Increasing the input signal gradually opens up the valve and
Increasing the input signal gradually opens up the valve and
allows more flow to pass through...
allows more flow to pass through...

NON-FEEDBACK VALVE
... until the valve is wide open and passing maximum flow.
... until the valve is wide open and passing maximum flow.

NON-FEEDBACK VALVE
1) For any input signal therefore, the spool is positioned by
1) For any input signal therefore, the spool is positioned by
balancing solenoid force against spring force. In practice
balancing solenoid force against spring force. In practice
however, other forces also act on the spool. Flow forces in
however, other forces also act on the spool. Flow forces in
particular are generated when flow passes through the valve
particular are generated when flow passes through the valve
and these will act with the spring to oppose the solenoid force
and these will act with the spring to oppose the solenoid force
and thus reduce the amount of spool opening.
and thus reduce the amount of spool opening.

NON-FEEDBACK VALVE
1) For any input signal therefore, the spool is positioned by
1) For any input signal therefore, the spool is positioned by
balancing solenoid force against spring force. In practice
balancing solenoid force against spring force. In practice
however, other forces also act on the spool. Flow forces in
however, other forces also act on the spool. Flow forces in
particular are generated when flow passes through the valve
particular are generated when flow passes through the valve
and these will act with the spring to oppose the solenoid force
and these will act with the spring to oppose the solenoid force
and thus reduce the amount of spool opening.
and thus reduce the amount of spool opening.

2) This simple type of


2) This simple type of
valve will therefore have
valve will therefore have
limitations both on the
limitations both on the
maximum flow rate it can
maximum flow rate it can
pass and also with its
pass and also with its
performance in terms of
performance in terms of
accurate positioning of the
accurate positioning of the
valve spool.
valve spool.

FEEDBACK VALVE
Valve performance can be increased by adding a spool position
Valve performance can be increased by adding a spool position
sensor to the valve. This sensor provides an electronic
sensor to the valve. This sensor provides an electronic
feedback signal to the amplifier and thus allows the spool to be
feedback signal to the amplifier and thus allows the spool to be
positioned much more accurately.
positioned much more accurately.

FEEDBACK VALVE
Increasing the input signal to the amplifier gradually opens the
Increasing the input signal to the amplifier gradually opens the
valve flow path.
valve flow path.

FEEDBACK VALVE
Increasing the input signal to the amplifier gradually opens the
Increasing the input signal to the amplifier gradually opens the
valve flow path.
valve flow path.

FEEDBACK VALVE
As before, flow forces will build up to oppose the solenoid
As before, flow forces will build up to oppose the solenoid
force and attempt to reduce the spool opening. Any reduction
force and attempt to reduce the spool opening. Any reduction
in opening is now detected by the spool sensor however and
in opening is now detected by the spool sensor however and
results in an increased output current from the amplifier and
results in an increased output current from the amplifier and
an increased force from the solenoid to counteract the flow
an increased force from the solenoid to counteract the flow
forces.
forces.

FEEDBACK VALVE
1) As the pressure drop and flow rate through the valve
1) As the pressure drop and flow rate through the valve
increase further, ultimately the flow forces will overcome the
increase further, ultimately the flow forces will overcome the
solenoid force and act to reduce the valve opening as with the
solenoid force and act to reduce the valve opening as with the
simple valve but this will now occur at a significantly greater
simple valve but this will now occur at a significantly greater
flow rate than before. For a given size therefore, a feedback
flow rate than before. For a given size therefore, a feedback
type valve will pass a greater flow than the equivalent nontype valve will pass a greater flow than the equivalent nonfeedback valve and the spool positioning will be more accurate.
feedback valve and the spool positioning will be more accurate.

2) The penalty for the improved performance however is a


2) The penalty for the improved performance however is a
higher cost valve and the fact that the amplifier needs to be
higher cost valve and the fact that the amplifier needs to be
dedicated to the type of valve it is controlling (as opposed to a
dedicated to the type of valve it is controlling (as opposed to a
multi-purpose amplifier used on the non-feedback valve).
multi-purpose amplifier used on the non-feedback valve).

TWO-STAGE SOLENOID VALVE


When higher flow rates
When higher flow rates
need to be controlled, a twoneed to be controlled, a twostage valve becomes the
stage valve becomes the
most
practical
solution
most
practical
solution
(rather than fitting larger
(rather than fitting larger
and larger solenoids).
and larger solenoids).
As with direct acting valves,
As with direct acting valves,
a two-stage proportional
a two-stage proportional
valve has many similarities
valve has many similarities
with its equivalent switching
with its equivalent switching
valve, but there are also
valve, but there are also
significant differences.
significant differences.

TWO-STAGE PROPORTIONAL VALVE


Firstly, the main spool is
Firstly, the main spool is
modified to incorporate the
modified to incorporate the
spool metering notches as on
spool metering notches as on
the direct acting valves.
the direct acting valves.
This
provides
a
more
This
provides
a
more
controlled
opening
and
controlled
opening
and
closing of the valve flow
closing of the valve flow
path.
path.

TWO-STAGE PROPORTIONAL VALVE


Secondly, the pilot stage is
Secondly, the pilot stage is
modified
so
that
the
modified
so
that
the
solenoid current varies the
solenoid current varies the
pressure created in the
pressure created in the
ports leading to either end
ports leading to either end
of
the
main
spool.
of
the
main
spool.
Effectively, the pilot stage
Effectively, the pilot stage
operates as two proportional
operates as two proportional
pressure reducing valves.
pressure reducing valves.

TWO-STAGE PROPORTIONAL VALVE


Thirdly, the main spool
Thirdly, the main spool
springs are replaced with
springs are replaced with
just one spring. This means
just one spring. This means
that the same spring is
that the same spring is
compressed whichever side
compressed whichever side
of center the main spool is
of center the main spool is
moved thus avoiding the
moved thus avoiding the
need for two accurately
need for two accurately
matched springs.
matched springs.

TWO-STAGE VALVE (NON-FEEDBACK)


Finally, a pressure reducing
Finally, a pressure reducing
module is sometimes fitted
module is sometimes fitted
between the main stage and
between the main stage and
pilot stage to reduce the
pilot stage to reduce the
pilot
pressure
when
pilot
pressure
when
operating at high system
operating at high system
pressures (typically greater
pressures (typically greater
than 3000 psi).
than 3000 psi).

TWO-STAGE VALVE (NON-FEEDBACK)


Energizing one of the pilot
Energizing one of the pilot
stage solenoids creates a
stage solenoids creates a
pressure in one main spool
pressure in one main spool
end-chamber proportional
end-chamber proportional
to the solenoid current.
to the solenoid current.
This pressure pushes the
This pressure pushes the
main spool across until the
main spool across until the
main spring compression
main spring compression
force balances the pilot
force balances the pilot
pressure force.
pressure force.

TWO-STAGE VALVE (NON-FEEDBACK)


Energizing the opposite
Energizing the opposite
solenoid moves the main
solenoid moves the main
spool in the other direction
spool in the other direction
but still compresses the
but still compresses the
same main centering spring.
same main centering spring.

TWO-STAGE VALVE (SINGLE FEEDBACK)


When an increased level of
When an increased level of
performance is required, a
performance is required, a
spool position sensor can be
spool position sensor can be
fitted to the main spool and
fitted to the main spool and
a single solenoid pilot stage
a single solenoid pilot stage
used. As before however,
used. As before however,
this will increase the cost
this will increase the cost
of the valve and require a
of the valve and require a
dedicated amplifier.
dedicated amplifier.